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6 Answers 6


What's so moving about Kol Nidrei?

Michoel asked:1 Wikipedia's entry on Kol Nidrei says:

Though not a prayer, this dry legal formula and its ceremonial accompaniment have been charged with emotional undertones since the medieval period, creating a dramatic introduction to Yom Kippur on what is often dubbed "Kol Nidrei night".

Why is this so? What meaning behind annulling oaths evokes such emotions? Why is this one of the highlights of the High Holiday prayer, one of the times almost all Jews, regardless of background, come to synagogue?

Ted Hopp answered: One explanation I heard – most likely, it was from the rabbi of the Sephardic congregation my family belonged to in Colombia in the late 1950s – was that Kol Nidre took on additional layers of emotional meaning for European Jews because of the forced conversion of Jews to Christianity during the Middle Ages. It's mentioned in the Wikipedia article on Kol Nidre.

b a suggested: It's the start of the atonement (you can see it as an atonement of vows).

Fred said, based on the ArtScroll Machzor's introduction to Kol Nidrei:

When Rabbah bar bar Chanah arrived at the site of Mount Sinai, he heard a Divine voice proclaim: "Woe is me that I have sworn! But now that I have sworn, who will annul my oath?" (Talmud, Bava Basra 74a). The Rashbam comments (ad loc.) that G-d looks for grounds to annul His oath not to end the exile.

The Tikkunei Zohar (תיקון ה׳ ליום ל״ז) contains a mystical passage describing G-d's oath that the Divine Presence will remain in exile. In it, Rabbi Shimon provides kabbalistic grounds for annulling the oath and ending the exile of His Presence and the Jewish people. Many prayer books include this passage as a prologue to Kol Nidrei.

By reciting Kol Nidrei we as a community annul all vows and oaths. We demonstrate that G-d, too, may be free of His burdensome oath, and He may finally redeem His Presence with His people, that they may, as the Yom Kippur services say, all join together to serve Him wholeheartedly.

Double AA suggested: The haunting tune. And, Charles Koppelman added, more than anything else, it's the liturgical statement that indicates Yom Kippur is here.

Monica Cellio noted: Other answers have addressed the meaning in the text and historical associations, but I think Double AA's comment is critical: it's the music. I've been told this by many members of my congregation, including both scholars and "regular Jews". For them, just reading the text would be empty, but hearing it sung connects them with the day, its themes, and its history.

A professor lecturing on music in worship (at Hebrew Union College) told me that Kol Nidrei is one of the so-called "miSinai" melodies, one that is strongly associated with Yom Kippur for the listener. Even listeners who don't know what the words mean seem to be moved by this melody in its context. (They might not be, and might even find it odd, if they heard this melody in a concert hall in April.)

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/20356

Michoel mi.yodeya.com/u/1535
Ted Hopp mi.yodeya.com/u/619
b a mi.yodeya.com/u/1569
Fred mi.yodeya.com/u/1442
Double AA mi.yodeya.com/u/759
Charles Koppelman mi.yodeya.com/u/1498
Monica Cellio mi.yodeya.com/u/472

  • 1
    Machzor section: Kol Nidrei
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 6, 2015 at 4:02
  • SECOND-PARTY EDIT COMPLETE. Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 3:32

Why did Yonah run away?

Monica Cellio asked:1 If Yonah (Jonah) understood that he was being commanded by God, then how could he have possibly thought that he could run away? Did he believe that God was tied to a particular land, the way pagan gods were thought to be tied to theirs, and that if he just got out of Israel he would be ok? But Nineveh is not in Israel either. At the time he ran, did Yonah perhaps not yet understand Who was commanding him?

jake answered: Yonah was a navi (prophet) who was living in the kingdom of Israel before its exile by Sancheriv (Sennacherib). God told him to go to Ninveh, which was the capital of Ashur (Assyria).

In general, God is not concerned enough with the affairs of non-Jewish nations to send them messages through a navi to repent, which is why they don't have their own prophets to begin with. Yonah concluded that their repentance must be relevant to Israel in some way, particularly to exile them from their land. (Yonah knew that the Jews weren't on the highest spiritual level at that point.)

Therefore, Yonah refused to go, not wanting to play any part in Israel's destruction. He hoped that God would choose another navi in his place, as clearly, if God wanted this done, it must be done by somebody, just not him. To try and ensure this, Yonah tried to flee to outside of Israel, as he believed that prophecy does not exist outside of the land (which is true, with few exceptions). Thus, he thought, God would be forced to send someone else.

See Abarbanel (Yonah 1).

Menachem added: Rashi says that Yonah figured that if the people of Nineveh would listen to G-d's word and repent, it would make the Jewish people look that much worse for not repenting. He therefore tried to get out of delivering the message to them.

JXG offered: I heard an innovative explanation from Rav Meir Spiegelman. Yonah doesn't run away to get to a different place; Yonah sets sail in order to be at sea, and there is no prophecy at sea.

This is related to the idea that the sea is too different from the earth to be involved in earth-based things (e.g. fish are created from the water, but animals from the earth; fish were not punished during the flood; fish are never brought as sacrifices).

Specifically regarding Yonah, this issue is explained by the Malbim:

לכן עלה אל האניה, שחשב שבעת יהיה באניה לא תחול עליו רוח ה', אם מפני שיורדי הים דעתם בלתי מתישבת מצער הים עד בואם ליבשה כמ"ש חז"ל, אם מפני שאז לא יתבודד באשר היו על האניה עובדי אלילים שכ"ז תעכב בל תשרה השכינה עליו.‏

Therefore he went to the ship, since he thought that when he would be in the ship the Divine Presence would not rest on him, either because those who set sail have unfocused thoughts from the difficulty of the sea until they come to dry land, as our sages have said, or because then he could not be alone, as there were idol worshipers on the ship; that all this would prevent the Divine presence from resting on him.

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/11510

jake mi.yodeya.com/u/489
JXG mi.yodeya.com/u/494
menachem mi.yodeya.com/u/603
Monica Cellio mi.yodeya.com/u/472

  • 1
    Machzor section: Mincha, Haftara
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 6, 2015 at 4:04
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 15:49

Avinu Malkeinu - middle verses said out loud by the Chazan

Gershon Gold asked:1 Why do we repeat the verses of Avinu Malkeinu out loud after the chazzan (cantor) from "Hachzireinu B'Teshuva" ("Return us with repentance ...") until "Kosveinu B'Sefer Slicha U'Mechila" ("Inscribe us in the book of forgiveness and pardon")? Why only these verses? Why not others?

Michoel answered: The custom of reciting Avinu Malkeinu responsively by the chazzan and congregation is brought in Mateh Efrayim (602:13), without any explanation. The Mateh Efrayim himself writes to begin from "קרע" ("tear up ..."), however the Ktzey Hamateh commentary (often printed with the Mateh Efrayim) brings the custom to start from "החזירנו בתשובה" ("Return us with repentance ...").

The only reason I could find is mentioned in Sha'ar Yissachar - Moznayim Lamishpat #91: During the Ten Days of Repentance, we say "... א"מ כתבנו" ("Our Father, our King, inscribe us ..."), whereas on a fast day we say "... א"מ זכרנו" ("Our Father, our King, remember us ..."), and during Ne'ilah, we say "... א"מ חתמינו" ("Our Father, our King, seal us ..."). This could lead to confusion, and therefore the chazzan says these verses loudly. (The Sha'ar Yissachar himself writes that this is an unsatisfactory explanation, and in fact is of the opinion not the recite any verses responsively).

However, this does not explain why to begin from "... א"מ החזירנו בתשובה" ("Our Father, our King, return us with repentance ..."), a bit earlier than the verses with the differing verbs. The Mo'adim Uzmanim (6:2) explains that if we would begin from "... א"מ כתבנו לחיים" ("Our Father, our King, inscribe us for life ..."), it would appear as if all we are interested in is our own needs (as the Zohar says: "These dogs that say 'Give us life', 'Give us food'"), and so we instead begin aloud by requesting that Hashem help us do Teshuva (repent).

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/10427

Gershon Gold mi.yodeya.com/u/200
Michoel mi.yodeya.com/u/1535

  • Machzor section: "Avinu Malkeinu,* any
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 4:44
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 21:59

Is there tashlumin for N'ila?

WAF asked:1 Being that n'ila is a unique prayer, in that it only occurs once a year, can one make up (do tashlumin for) n'ila at the next prayer, or the previous one at n'ila?

Isaac Moses said: R' Joseph B. Soloveitchik's understanding of Ne'ila, which I saw in the Machzor Mesoras Harav, is that it's a uniquely dependent prayer whose purpose is to ask God to accept all the other prayers we've engaged in over Yom Kippur. He was confident enough in this understanding that he proposed a practical Halachic outcome: If someone happened to miss all four of the preceding Yom Kippur prayers, that person would not be allowed to pray Ne'ila.

While in the days of the Temple, the Avodah service was considered synonymous with the Yom Kippur experience, today our own cognitive association with Yom Kippur is that of a day devoted entirely to prayer. According to the Rav, prayer on Yom Kippur takes on a complexion fundamentally different from prayer during the rest of the year. The day of Yom Kippur must be transformed into a yom tefila, a day of prayer. To accomplish this transformation, Chazal instituted the Ne'ilah service. The purpose of Ne'ilah is to request that all the previous prayers of the day be accepted before God. (See Rambam, Hilchos Tefillah 1:7.)

This conception of the role of the Ne'ilah service was so compelling to the Rav that he actually posited a halachah on this basis. If, during the year, one would forget to recite any of the three daily prayers (Shacharis, Minchah, or Maariv) in its proper time, his halachic right to participate in subsequent prayers would be unaffected. If, however, for some reason one did not pray at all on Yom Kippur until the time for Ne'ilah had arrived, the Rav maintained that he could not participate in the Ne'ilah service. The function of Ne'ilah is to transform all previous prayers into one unified prayer activity. Without the earlier prayers there can be no Ne'ilah (Before Hashem, pp. 159-160). Elsewhere, the Rav suggested that one who missed even a single one of the previous Yom Kippur prayers may not recite Ne'ilah (Mesorah Journal 5772, Volume 6, p. 23).

Based on that, my guess would be that Ne'ila is different enough from other prayers that indeed, it can't make up for them or be made up for.

If I'm right, the additional question would be whether the preceding Yom Kippur prayer, Mincha, could be made up for during the first Ma'ariv after Yom Kippur.

Double AA answered: Rav Ovadia Yosef has a teshuva (Yabia Omer OC 7:54) on making up for a missed N'ila dated 11 Tishrei 5748.

He quotes Tosfot (Brachot 26a s.v. Iba'y) who gives two reasons that there is no tashlumin for a missed Musaf: because you can't say the verses related to the korbanot (offerings) on the wrong day, and because Musaf was only established to take the place of the Korban Musaf whose time has already passed. Since neither of these reasons applies to N'ila, it would seem there would be tashlumin for a missed N'ila. The Peri Megadim in fact rules this way (OC 108 MZ 5) although he doesn't quote earlier sources for his ruling. (This leads to the strange case of praying thrice: Maariv, Tashlumin for N'ila, and Tashlumin for Mincha.)

However, the Rashba (Shu"t 1:447) explains that there isn't tashlumin for Musaf because:

כל תפלה שהיא נוספת מחמת מאורע היום אין ראוי להשלימה ביום אחר שכבר עבר המאורע.‏
Any prayer which is added because of a special day is not tashlumin-able because the special day has passed.

According to this reasoning, N'ila would not have tashlumin. Rav Ovadia quotes a slew of Rishonim who also give this reason, among them Ritva, Me'iri, Tashbetz, Ra'ah, and Rif, and he seems to conclude in this direction as well.

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/4001

Double AA mi.yodeya.com/u/759
Isaac Moses mi.yodeya.com/u/2
WAF mi.yodeya.com/u/3

  • Machzor section: Ne'ila
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 21:10
  • I chopped off the last sentence of Isaac's answer because after reformatting to make the quote flow i couldn't quite figure out where to put it.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 21:12
  • SECOND-PARTY EDIT COMPLETE Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 2:32

Why do we read Yona on Yom Kippur?

user1668 asked:1 Why do we read Yona, the book of Jonah, of all things, on Yom Kippur? There are better tales of teshuvah that are more relevant to the Jews; why was this book, which deals exclusively with non-Jews doing teshuvah, chosen instead?

Charles Koppelman responded: As it says in the Unetanneh Tokef prayer, Yom Kippur is Judgment Day for all, not just for Jews:

וְכָל בָּאֵי עולָם יַעַבְרוּן לְפָנֶיךָ כִּבְנֵי מָרון. כְּבַקָּרַת רועֶה עֶדְרו. מַעֲבִיר צאנו תַּחַת שִׁבְטו .כֵּן תַּעֲבִיר וְתִסְפּר וְתִמְנֶה וְתִפְקד נֶפֶשׁ כָּל חָי. וְתַחְתּךְ קִצְבָה לְכָל בְּרִיּותֶיךָ. וְתִכְתּב אֶת גְּזַר דִּינָם׃

בְּראשׁ הַשָּׁנָה יִכָּתֵבוּן וּבְיום צום כִּפּוּר יֵחָתֵמוּן

All mankind will pass before You like a flock of sheep. Like a shepherd pasturing his flock, making sheep pass under his staff, so shall You cause to pass, count, calculate, and consider the soul of all the living; and You shall apportion the destinies of all Your creatures and inscribe their verdict.

On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed

The book of Yonah reminds us that this is bigger deal than just the Jews. On the other hand, it raises the bar for us: If Nineveh does true teshuvah with such little impetus, we who have a covenant with G-d should wake up and do teshuvah.

It also is a nice counterpoint to the haftarah for Shacharit -- fasts aren't about sackcloth and ashes, says Isaiah (58:5), but about justice (ibid. verses 6–7). You Jews are faking it. Look at the Ninevites instead, we hear in the afternoon. They can do real teshuvah. Don't assume that you are better at this just because you're Jews – you still need to work at it.

Also, what is another good book where all of a society does such a true teshuvah?

b a said: The Shlah says that their doing teshuvah inspires us to do it as well; and the Sefer HaTodaah ("The Book of Our Heritage") says that it's to show that you can't run away from G-d.

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/18691

b a mi.yodeya.com/u/1569
Charles Koppelman mi.yodeya.com/u/1498
user1668 N/A

  • Machzor section: Mincha, Maftir Yonah
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 9:22
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 5:33

What does “Baruch shem k'vod malchuso l'olam vaed” mean?

msh210 asked:1 A sentence commonly said during prayer is "בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד". How do we interpret it? What does it mean?

It sounds like it means:

Blessed is/be the name of the glory/honor of His kingdom forever and ever.

(Note: "מַלְכוּת" can mean "the area under the control of a king", in this case the universe etc., or "the status or quality of being king". I'm translating it ambiguously as "kingdom", but ideally an answer explaining what the sentence means will clarify which meaning "מַלְכוּת" has.)

However, that doesn't make much sense to me. That would mean God's kingdom has glory. And the glory has a name. And we're blessing the name of the glory, or saying it's blessed. That seems very… odd.

So what does the sentence really mean?

He went on to reflect on a few translations that came to hand:

A slightly more palatable (to me) translation makes "כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ" into "His glorious kingdom", as follows:

Rabbi N. Scherman (ArtScroll):2

Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity.

Rabbi J. Sacks (Koren):3

Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.

It's more palatable, I say, because at least we're not claiming His kingdom's glory has a name — just that the kingdom itself does. It's still odd to me (that God's kingdom has a name), though, and that we're saying the name is blessed, or blessing it. Plus, we have the grammatical objection that "כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ" shouldn't mean "His glorious kingdom": that'd be "מַלְכוּת כְּבוֹדוֹ".

There is an even more palatable translation:

Rabbi J. Hertz:4.

Blessed be His Name, Whose Glorious Kingdom is for ever and ever.

Rabbi A. Davis (Metsudah):5

Blessed [is His] Name, Whose glorious kingdom is forever and ever.

That makes the entire end of the sentence, "כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד", into a description of God; "Him whose glorious kingdom is forever" (or, one could even say, "Him whose kingdom's glory is forever", to avoid the "מַלְכוּת כְּבוֹדוֹ" issue). This, as I say, is the most palatable of the bunch: we're not saying a name is or should be blessed, nor glory, nor a kingdom, but God. But if this is the correct interpretation of the sentence, I seek a source for it (besides Rabbis Hertz and Davis).

yEz expounded: שם — a name refers to reputation, or how something is known. "טוב שם משמן טוב" (Koheles 7:1) means a good reputation is better than oil. One who is "מוציא שם רע," a slanderer, as described in Devarim 22:14 — "וְשָׂם לָהּ עֲלִילֹת דְּבָרִים, וְהוֹצִא עָלֶיהָ שֵׁם רָע" — "and lay wanton charges against her, and bring up an evil name upon her" — has created a bad reputation.

The idea of a name is that which you use for others to relate to you. One does not identify oneself by one's name; it is there for others to use.

כבוד - Honor refers to a presence, the extent to which something is recognized. The Gemara in Bava Basra 3a records a dispute about the verse (Chagai 2:9) "גדול יהיה כבוד הבית הזה האחרון מן הראשון" — "The honor of the later Temple will be greater than the former":

רב ושמואל ואמרי לה ר' יוחנן חד אמר בבנין וחד אמר בשנים

Rav and Shmuel, one said it means it was larger, and one said it means it stood longer.

Both of them agree the greater "honor" refers to its physical presence; at issue is whether it was in space or in time. (As the Gemara points out, they were both correct.) This is also why "seeing" Hashem is often referred to as "seeing" His "honor" (e.g. Shemos 29:43, Vayikra 9:23).

The idea of getting honor means you are acknowledged. You get honor when you are recognized in some way.

מלכות - Royalty refers to making something manifest. Bringing something from the potential to the actual is the attribute of malchus. Rav Pincus in Shabbos Malkisa6 explains that this is why malchus is always at the end of a list (i.e. in Nishmas, in "לך ה' הגדולה," the list of middos (attributes) in Yishtabach), because malchus only comes after everything else, and brings it out to actualization.

The role of a king is to actualize the potential of the individuals that make up the nation. This is one explanation why "מלך שמחל על כבודו אין כבודו מחול" — a king does not have the right to forgo his own honor — because the honor is not really his: it is the projection of the nation as a whole.

R' Tzaddok7 writes (Resisei Layla 25) that the world was created with the Trait of Malchus: bringing out the infinite potential of creation into a finite actual was accomplished through Malchus.

The concept of ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו is that the perception of Hashem's Presence should be increasingly brought out from infinite potential into a perceptible realtiy. This is because ברוך means רבוי, increase, according to Rashba and Nefesh HaChaim. Thus, roughly:
ברוך - Increased [should be]
שם - the relationship to
כבוד - the physically-apparent aspect of
מלכותו (the manifestation of Hashem).

In Nefesh HaChaim Sha'ar ג Chapter יד, in a gloss, he explains that Yaakov Avinu said ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו and Moshe Rabbeinu did not (when each respectively said Shema), because Yaakov was still on the level of acknowledging the realness of a finite reality, and therefore his perception of ה' אחד relied on bringing it down to this world. Moshe, however, was on the level of, to some degree, perceiving Hashem's essence, that there is no authenticity to finite reality (see the beginning of Sha'ar ג) and therefore did not need to relate to Hashem through translating His infinitude into finite manifestation. Nefesh HaChaim also sees this line as relating to the relating to Hashem (שם) through the bringing out (מלכות) of His Presence (כבוד) into this world.

We (and everyone except Moshe Rabbeinu, see Nefesh Hachaim immediately after above-quoted gloss) live in a reality in which we experience Hashem on the level of how He appears in this world, and that is the level on which our relationship with Him must function (see Maharal Nesiv HaAvoda ch. 12). We therefore pray that His manifestation in this world should increase, in order that we have a greater experience of that relationship. Baruch Shem Kevod is the Tefillah of asking for that increase. (It is placed where it is, immediately following Shema, because Shema is the declaration of Hashem's oneness which supersedes finite existence and declares that His existence is the only real existence. We have to "mitigate" that for ourselves into our realm of experience, which is the reality of this world.)

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/35663
  2. Scherman, Nosson, and Meir Zlotowitz, eds. The Complete ArtScroll Siddur: Weekday, Sabbath, Festival: a New Translation and Anthologized Commentary. Mesorah Publications, 1985.
  3. Sacks, Jonathan, ed. The Koren Siddur, American Edition. Koren Publishers Jerusalem Ltd., 2009.
  4. Hertz, Joseph H. The Authorised Daily Prayer Book: Hebrew text, English translation with commentary and notes. Bloch, 1971.
  5. Davis, Avrohom. The Complete Metsudah Siddur. Metsudah Publications, 1990.
  6. Pincus, Shimshon Dovid. שבת מלכתא. ‏2001.
  7. Rabbi Zadok ha-Kohen Rabinowitz of Lublin, a Hasidic leader in 19th Century Poland.

msh210 mi.yodeya.com/u/170
yEz mi.yodeya.com/u/4794

  • SECOND-PARTY EDIT COMPLETE. Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 3:25

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